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Phillies relieved Suárez avoided anything serious with left hand injury – NBC Sports Philadelphia


Phillies relieved Suárez avoided anything serious with left hand injury – NBC Sports Philadelphia

For the wizened scouts, skin tanned and leathery from too many hours spent under the unforgiving sun, it’s a boilerplate caveat, delivered almost by rote after thousands of recitations.

“If we stay healthy. . .” Then they mentally tap their knuckles on wood.

Not just the scouts, either. It’s both the hope and the worry of every baseball person employed by every contender, one of the few matters old school and new are completely in accord with.

So when lefthander Ranger Suárez – by any accounting the Phillies top starting pitcher through the first two months of the season and arguably in all of baseball – had to pull the plug on his start against the Cardinals on Saturday night after a line drive off the bat of St. Louis leftfielder Alec Burleson hit him on the base of his right thumb, having the best record in baseball suddenly seemed a bit more tenuous.

Suárez, who entered the evening 9-1 with a 1.75 earned run average, retired the first five batters he faced before Burleson ripped a 106.1 mile per hour shot right back at him. The 28-year-old knocked the ball down and threw the runner out at first, but grimaced noticeably as he came off the field.

“You try to make sure he’s good and then go win a game,” first baseman Bryce Harper said when asked about the mood in the dugout after Suárez was taken away for evaluation. “That’s about it. You can’t really think about it too much. Ranger’s been our horse. He’s been our guy. But you’ve still got to understand that winning a game and winning a series was huge for us.”

The Phillies won, 6-1, and clinched the series in large part because the bullpen came up big again.

But the big story. . .

X-rays on Suárez’s hand were negative. He may miss a turn but the medical staff doesn’t anticipate that he’ll be out any longer than that. The smile on Rob Thomson’s face when he walked into the postgame interview room told the story as well as his words.

“We’ve got to wait a couple days to get the swelling out to see if he can grip a baseball to see if he can make his next start,” the manager said. “I feel pretty lucky right now. No doubt. If he can’t make his next start, that’s fine, too. So we’ll figure out and make sure that doesn’t turn into anything else.”

Suárez was playful, almost giddy after the game. There is an island in the middle of the clubhouse where players traditionally conduct their postgame interviews. Instead of walking to his spot, he crawled under the counter. When he was asked to show the reporters how swollen his wrist was, he playfully hid it under his T-shirt.

“It was a hard liner, but as soon as the ball hit me I knew I was going to be okay,” he said through interpreter Diego D’Aniello. “But as soon as the ball hit me, I knew I wasn’t going to continue. Why force it? The season is just starting, so there was no reason to try to play through it.

“Obviously I feel fortunate, with the speed that line drive had, if it catches another part of my body or a bone, for sure it’s broken. But luckily it hit all muscle.”

Righthander José Ruiz came in to pitch the third, giving former starter Spencer Turnbull an opportunity to go through his normal warmup routine. He then took over in the fourth. In the end, five relievers filled the final seven innings allowing just one run on five hits and no walks while striking out 11.

Even with a lingering concern about Suárez, the sellout crowd of 44,648 at Citizens Bank Park had plenty to cheer about. They’ve now won two straight against a resurgent Cardinals team that had won five straight series but will now have to try to salvage one win in Sunday night’s finale.

The Phillies have overcome some adversity already this season. They’ve been without shortstop Trea Turner (pulled hamstring) for a month and he was hitting .343 when he went on the injured list. Still, they’ve barely missed a beat, largely because Edmundo Sosa is playing some of the best baseball of his big league career.

If Suárez has to miss a start, Thomson all but announced that Turnbull will step in. He opened the season in the rotation while Taijuan Walker (shoulder) was sidelined. In six starts, he went 2-0 with a 1.67 ERA.

He was dominant Saturday night, striking out six in three innings. The only baserunner he allowed reached on an error. The issue would be how long it would take him to get fully stretched out again to the point of being able to pitch deep into games.

“He really picked us up,” Thomson said. “Three innings, fifty pitches. I wasn’t really comfortable sending him back out because he really hadn’t been to that pitch count in close to three weeks. But if he does have to make Ranger’s next start, I am comfortable with him at 80 pitches.”

It also helps that the Phillies are under no pressure to make an immediate decision. With Thursday and Friday off to accommodate travel to London and another open date Monday after they play two games against the Mets in London Stadium, they could get by without filling that spot until June 13 when they play the Red Sox at Fenway Park.

They also have depth in their rotation – Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Cristopher Sanchez – that most teams would envy, plus the ability to outslug their opponent on any given night.

Harper smashed his 14th home run into the second deck in right in the seventh, a two-run shot that added an exclamation point to the proceedings.

And, because the Braves lost, the Phils increased their lead in the National League East to 7.5 games.

The Phillies remain on track to achieve their unofficial World Series Or Bust motto. Assuming, of course, that they stay healthy.

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